Prior to playing Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana, I’d only ever played one other Ys game – Ys Origin. I really enjoyed Ys Origin. The fun and fast action made it a joy to play. I had high hope for Ys 8 but I was also apprehensive because I had read that the Japanese version of the game had performance issues on the Vita. Fortunately, after playing for around 15 hours I’ve found no performance issues on my Vita and I’ve enjoyed Ys VIII even more than Ys Origin.
In Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana you play as Adol Christin. Adol and his friend are sailing on a boat returning home after one of their adventures when the boat is attacked by a large sea monster. Adol wakes up on the mysterious island of Seiren, where it is rumoured that no one that comes to the island ever leaves. Adol embarks on an adventure to explore the island and find any survivors from the ship and ultimately find a way off the island. Meanwhile, Adol is having dreams of a blue haired girl he’s never met before, named Dana.
I really like the story so far for Ys VIII. Where so many games have high stakes like the world is in danger or millions of lives are on the line if the hero doesn’t succeed, I liked that the plot was focused on Adol and the ship’s passengers and their survival on this dangerous island. Adol finds various survivors over the course of the game dotted all over the island.
It was strange of course that he woke up on one beach whereas others found themselves in the middle or other side of the island, but it wouldn’t be much of a game if all the passengers were in one place! The different characters all had really distinct personalities and as you get to know them, they had interesting back stories. There were so many throw away conversations that didn’t serve any purpose to the plot but were there just to develop the characters. I was really surprised how attached I became to some of them.
I have a very limited knowledge of the story to the wider Ys series and it didn’t impact my understanding of the game and characters at all. I may have missed some easter eggs or references to previous Ys games but I didn’t feel like I was missing out. So don’t let the “8” in the title put you off from playing.
Ys VIII is an action RPG. You control the main character freely and run, jump and attack monsters. You have a party of 3 characters. Laxia is a fast and agile swords woman, Shahad is your tank, performing powerful attacks using the ship’s broken anchor as a weapon. And Adol uses a sword and is a balance between speed and power. I found myself favouring Adol in general. You can instantly swap who you control at any time, even mid battle.
The battle system is excellent. I didn’t like the initial controller set-up but it was very easy to swap the buttons around to a layout that I was comfortable with. Jumping, dodging and executing attacks was fluid and intuitive. You can execute special attacks that you unlock over time and if you time your dodges or blocks at the right time, then you get a temporary boost to your attack or speed. The controls were responsive and so easy to get to grips with that it makes the game really fun to play.
Aside from exploring the island and fighting monsters, the game has a lot of variety in activities for you to do. You will of course be looking for the ship’s survivors, but you also need to build and upgrade your base’s buildings and defences, you can upgrade your weapons and equipment, go fishing for food, undertake quests for other survivors that will help you become closer to them and you can take on some tower defense missions to protect your base from waves of enemies. I loved how much there is so much to do in the game. The completionist in me wanted to complete every sub quest, which is part of the reason I haven’t finished it yet!
I mentioned at the start that I had heard the Japanese Vita version had performance issues. I didn’t encounter any problems at all in my time with the game. The load times were not that long, saving was fast and even with multiple enemies on screen I didn’t have any slow downs. When you enter a new area, the game loads all the enemies onto the map. I found it pretty impressive that you can be fighting a group of enemies and still see multiple groups of enemies in the distance just walking around.
The game is designed as a series of interconnected areas that make up the island for you to explore. The level layouts and map design was smart. You only realise how well designed the map is when you start opening shortcuts from one area to another area that you’d visited hours earlier. The map is big and you have a lot of area to explore. The game locks certain areas by having obstacles in the way of pathways. To remove the obstacles you need the help of survivors. Some obstacles may only need 4 people whereas others will need up to 20 people to remove.
When you find enough survivors you can back track to the blocked path way and unlock it. There was never that much back tracking because you have teleport crystals dotted around the maps, so you can jump to the nearest teleport crystal and head over the obstacle. Given there is a need to revisit old area, I liked that the game doesn’t force you to repeat areas multiple time and instead allows you to just teleport close to where you need to be.
The difficulty was pretty fair to me. Some enemies were difficult the first time you encounter them, but once you figure out their attacks and how they telegraph their attacks, then they become manageable. The large monster bosses were pretty varied and fun. I didn’t find them overly challenging, but it probably helped that I was upgrading my weapons and equipment at every opportunity. Each boss had an intro that made them feel like a big deal.
The game looks amazing. This to me is one of the best looking games on the Vita. The textures of the ground and walls were a little blurry but the characters looked amazing and detailed. There were a lot of different enemy types and it seemed like each new area revealed a new enemy. The sunny island with waterfalls, beaches, lush forests and swamps look gorgeous on my vita. I spent way too much time just taking screenshots of the sky at night or standing on the beaches looking out at the ocean!
Music & Sound
The music was also excellent. It suited the game well, with each area of the island having its own music theme. There wasn’t one track that I didn’t like and some of the faster paced tracks really gave the feeling of going on an epic adventure. The voice acting was also really good. The voices suited their characters, and they weren’t annoying which is sometimes the case for English dubs on Japanese games.
While writing this preview, I tried to think about any negative points about the game and honestly, I really struggled. The gameplay, story, graphics and music all work perfectly together and the game is just so much fun to play. The only negative of Ys 8 is that it seems to drain the Vita’s battery quickly. Given the size of the game, how good it looks and how well it performs, it’s understandable that its more taxing on the battery than something like Undertale.
So, 15 hours in and my opinion is that Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana is an excellent game and indeed its become one of my favourite games on the Vita. If you like action RPGs this is a must buy.
Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana will be released for PS Vita and PS4 in North America on September 12, 2017 and in Europe on September 15, 2017.
Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana PS Vita Impressions: